Third Test Match


At Calcutta, December 31, January 1, 3, 4, 5. Drawn. Smog and rain, which restricted play to twenty minutes on the second day, followed by Gavaskar's perverse decision to continue India's innings from 417 for seven at lunch time on the fourth, made certain of a pointless and tedious draw. Gavaskar's lack of ambition, or evident direction, while Azharuddin and Shastri were adding 214 for the fifth wicket at under 2 runs an over, so incensed the crowd that there were fears a riot might develop. That section of the crowd nearest the pavilion hooted and booed, shouting "Gavaskar down, Gavaskar out" when the Indian captain made a brief appearance outside the dressing-room while Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma were batting at a snail's pace, and he was pelted with fruit when eventually he led India out to field, the game being held up for eight minutes while groundstaff cleared the outfield. Gower helped prompt his declaration - even then reluctant - twenty minutes after lunch with three overs of derisive off-breaks, while Edmonds took a leaf out of Warwick Armstrong's book at The Oval in 1921 by reading a newspaper as the captain waited at his mark to bowl. Gavaskar subsequently denied that police had warned him there was a threat to law and order should he delay the declaration any longer, though it was broadcast as a fact by an Indian commentator on BBC radio.

All this, combined with the distraction of a protracted meeting between India's selectors three days before the match to review Kapil Dev's omission, ensured a Test that had less to do with cricket than machinations off the field. The five selectors, who had been requested to reconsider Kapil's case by N. K. P. Salve, the BCCI chairman, unanimously decided against his reinstatement, although Gavaskar, who had no vote, was said to be in favour of it following the all-rounder's repentance for the stroke that helped England win the second Test in Delhi. The selectors, under the chairmanship of C. G. Borde, further established their authority over Gavaskar by insisting that the 21-year-old Azharuddin took the batting place vacated by Patil. The captain's preference was for Srikkanth, who as an opener would have given Gavaskar the chance he was seeking to bat at number five.

In the event Azharuddin vindicated the selectors' judgement by becoming the eighth Indian (ninth with the elder Nawab of Pataudi for England) to make a hundred in his maiden Test. A willowy 5ft 11in, he confirmed the impression made at Jaipur and Ahmedabad of placid temperament, sound technique and flawless application, batting 443 minutes before being caught in the gully from a ball that lifted off a length. After a well-contested first day, however, the tempo of Azharuddin's stand with Shastri, which was India's record in all Tests for the fifth wicket, killed the match.

Though the pitch was slow, England's outcricket was mostly of exceptional standard throughout India's innings of thirteen and three-quarter hours. There was, however, no justification for India's failure to try to accelerate. Shastri, who batted on all five days of the match, was the worst offender, taking an hour longer for his second fifty than his first, seven hours in all, and spending an hour in the 90s. Only eight hours remained when England's first innings started and the batsmen seemed for the most part unable to apply themselves to what had long since been a fruitless exercise. On the final day the crowd dropped to 60,000, a phenomenon for a Test at Eden Gardens.

© John Wisden & Co